History of Camp Ho Mita Koda

 Camp Ho Mita Koda was founded in 1929 by Dr. Henry John, a physician from the Cleveland Clinic, and his wife, Betty.

 Dr. John joined the staff of the Cleveland Clinic in 1921, the year insulin was discovered.  As insulin was perfected and released to physicians throughout the country, Dr. John was chosen to carry out clinical experiments and report his findings to Eli Lilly Company, which produced the insulin product.

At about that same time, young Betty Beaman was growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Her little sister developed diabetes and her father, a physician, was heart-sick that he was unable to help his baby.  He knew that she would likely die of this disease, as did most with type 1 diabetes at the time. 

Dr. Beaman heard about clinical research underway utilizing a promising new treatment.  He contacted the Cleveland Clinic, was put in touch with Dr. John and, through him, acquired a supply of insulin.  As Betty John told this story many years later, she stood by her sister’s bedside while the emaciated child was injected with insulin.  In a very short time the child began to feel better and almost miraculously, over time, regained her health.

Several years later, now grown, Betty found herself at the Cleveland Clinic working as a lab technician and there she met Henry John - the very same physician who had saved her sister’s life.  Though many years his junior, she fell in love and, in 1928, Betty and Henry married at his summer cottage in Newbury, Ohio; her then 13 year old sister was among the wedding guests.

As Dr. John continued to work with families of children with diabetes, he recognized two problems. Though insulin was keeping the children alive, their rigid diet and regimented daily routine was a heavy load on families, especially the mothers of these children.  Dr. John also realized that it was not enough to just keep these children alive.

the vision

Dr. and Mrs. John envisioned a summer camp where children with diabetes could learn how to deal with and manage their diabetes and have fun with other children at the same time.  So, in 1929, Dr. and Mrs. John decided to take six children with diabetes to their summer cottage in Newbury (also their wedding site). 

Their purpose was to provide as many normal activities as possible for the children and also to give some relief to the families.  Dr. John provided medical care and Betty John, with extensive camping and scouting experience, provided activities and daily care.  Two weeks at camp gave these six children, who ranged in age from 14 years old to an infant, their first vacation since developing diabetes.

After the success of this first summer, Dr. John recognized that the opportunity should be available to larger groups of children.  His vision became Camp Ho Mita Koda, the first organized camp of its kind in the world.  The basic purpose and standards that guided the camp's first year continue to prevail to this day, but the programs and property expanded significantly.

The camp grew from 6 to 250 campers and from 10 to 75 woodland acres.  Hand carved totem poles and animals - Dr. John's work, augmented by that of nationally known artisans - were added to give the camp, whose name means "Welcome, my friend" in the Sioux language, its distinctive charm.  A “Great Hall" was built along with 6 camper cabins, a bathhouse, a pool, and a number of staff and service buildings.

tradition of excellence

In 1958, Dr. John retired and the camp continued under management of its Board of Trustees, with George E. Willis as President and Treasurer. From 1958-1991, Camp Ho Mita Koda was led by the dedicated volunteers of the camp executive committee and Board. In 1991, an employee of the Diabetes Association of  Greater Cleveland was hired as Executive Director to professionally manage the Camp along with the volunteer Board of Trustees.  During those years the camp continued in the tradition of excellence established by Dr. and Mrs. John.  Both have since passed away, but Mrs. John retained an active interest in the well-being of the camp and its children until her death in 1997.  As noted by Betty in her autobiography, "The best years of my life...were given to Camp Ho-Mita-Koda."

Continued Growth

In more recent years, the facility has been further developed by the addition of the beautiful, Olympic-size Molly Blossom pool built in 1986 on the site of the old pool, the George E. Willis Team Challenge Course, dedicated in 1991, the Reinberger Bathhouse, dedicated in 1993, and a new addition to the old Great Hall which includes a modern new dispensary (The Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland Dispensary) and dining hall (Humphrey Hall).  These additions, along with 2 new camper cabins, were dedicated in 2001 at the conclusion of the "Focus on the Future" for children with diabetes campaign.  In 2003, the Swain Family Climbing Wall was constructed, and the low and high ropes courses were renovated in 2004 and 2005.  View photos of the facilities...

Programming also grew, with additions like the first Camp Ho Mita Koda Bicycle Adventure in 1995, Mini Camp for children ages 4-9 in 1997, Camp HMK for children with type 2 diabetes in 2001, and increased off-season programming to keep campers connected to each other and the Camp.

In 2006, Camp Ho Mita Koda merged with the Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland (DAGC), under the leadership of Jacquie Dickinson, who had served as the camp’s Executive Director since 1991 and was President & CEO of the Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland from 2005-2008.  DAGC had been the major financial supporter of the camp for many years and professionally managed the camp since 1991.  Camp Ho Mita Koda now operates as a program of Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland, enabling increased services in northeast Ohio for children and teenagers with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.  

Through the generous support of The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, a new pavilion was constructed at Camp Ho Mita Koda in spring of 2013.

priceless legacy

Camp Ho Mita Koda has given nearly 100 years of service to the Greater Cleveland community, to children with diabetes and their families, and to diabetes professionals throughout northeast Ohio. Your support has given thousands of children the opportunity to enjoy a "normal" summer camping experience while developing skills in diabetes self-management that will serve them throughout their lives. 

Dr. John and Betty left a legacy that will continue to impact our community for years to come.

The First Summer

"With a beginning of six children in the log cabin the first summer, cooking on a 3 burner oil stove and the open fireplace, carting water from the farmhouse across Auburn Rd....and with one pyromaniac amongst the kids and one 2 year old, we still found it worth our effort to proceed with plans for building an adequate camp."
Betty John

Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland

3601 S. Green Rd., #100
Beachwood, OH 44122
Phone: 216-591-0800 | Fax: 216-591-0320
information@diabetespartnership.org

 

 

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